Last week, the Carolina Hurricanes announced their season ticket membership plans for the 2018-19 NHL season. You may not have realized that they did so, because about twelve hours later some rather important news broke.
As has become our tradition, we break down what’s new, what’s the same, what’s different, and offer a bit of commentary on next year’s packages.
What Stayed The Same
Most notably, the biggest thing that hasn’t changed are the prices for season tickets. There are no new ticket levels, and no reclassifications of any seats, so if you were a STM in 2017-18 your seat’s cost will be exactly the same next year as it has been this year.
Also similar to last year, the tiered gate prices will not extend to season tickets. You’ll pay the same price for every game, no matter what they charge at the box office. (In the past the tiers have been gold/silver/bronze; those names aren’t mentioned, so they might change, but the idea behind them will still be in effect.)
The STM experiences are largely similar to what have been offered in the past: State of the Canes, now featuring owner Tom Dundon, Paint the Ice, the exclusive STM on-ice skate, movie night, and the holiday photo all return. There are a few new perks that we’ll mention in a bit.
A good number of STM benefits have not changed: an arena food and beverage credit for renewals or signups by March 31, 15% off on concessions, a $500 seat upgrade credit (“lower-level and club level only”), vouchers and discounts for additional ticket purchases, discounts for prepaid parking for “a limited time” and purchases at The Eye, and (riotous laughter) priority for playoff tickets.
Similar to last season’s $1,997 lower-level season ticket, the Canes are offering what they call a Pure Hockey plan that has fewer frills than other STM plans. Available for $75/game in the top eight rows of sections 103 and 105 or $40/game in Lower Level North (sections 108-115 from the top of the section down to row N), these plans include no concessions credit, no vouchers and no pregame ticket exchanges, but otherwise they are (apparently) identical to other lower-level STM packages. It’s a savings of $11/game in Lower Level North and $26/game at center ice, so it’s not an insignificant amount of money you’ll save.
Speaking of pregame ticket exchanges, you’ll be able to exchange your tickets for “up to 30” dates in 2018-19, a significant increase from the nine available this season. Also, the Canes will be offering a “Shoot for your Seats” event. What’s that? No idea; they don’t say anything about it other than the date is TBA, but our best guess is that it will be something that allows fans to upgrade their seat by completing a skills challenge of some sort.
And this straddles the line between a new thing and a change, but we’re including it here because it’s a significant shift. The 0% interest offer, which previously was 30% down and the remainder spread out over seven months, has been changed to 11 equal payments over 11 months with no requirement for a down payment. But here’s the kicker: going on the payment plan means that your tickets will auto-renew for the following season unless you opt out. Plan accordingly so that you don’t get caught off guard.
Oh, and you’ll get an exclusive STM hat.
The 30 Prizes In 30 Days promotion has been replaced by a ”Renewal Rewards” sweepstakes format where 80 STMs will be drawn for seven prizes ranging from a Diamonds Direct shopping spree to a trip to a road game on the team plane. (Since it’s a sweepstakes, state law mandates that the prizes be available to the general public, so you don’t have to buy a season ticket to enter as long as you do so in accordance with the official rules.)
A few perks have been eliminated, as well. Postgame ticket exchanges, allowing full STMs to trade in unused tickets after a game, are no more. There’s no mention of the STM “wall” recognizing membership that’s been on the arena concourse for the past few years, nor any mention of the STM Twitter account which was only sporadically used this past season.
The Canes a few years ago introduced a loyalty tiered system for offering event experiences to STMs based on tenure, plan type and plan location, but the loyalty tier isn’t mentioned in this year’s renewal. The promotional material mentions experiences like the fan tunnel and player meet-and-greets as exclusives based on STM tenure, but there’s nothing about what those tenure requirements are - or, for that matter, any details about the events themselves.
A little more than a month ago, we spoke to Canes VP of ticket sales Sara Daniel about the promotions that the team had offered in the first few months of 2018: FANuary, the Canes Pass, and so on. Here’s part of that story:
The Canes’ commitment to taking care of season ticket members also extends to next year’s season ticket packages, typically announced around March 1. Plans are still being finalized, but Daniel says that the team will see to it that the impact of the recent promotions on existing season ticket members will be taken into account when planning next year’s campaign.
Also taken into account when pricing out next season’s packages is an inherent assumption that the promotions used this season, or similar ones, will be offered again next season. Unlike this year, when the promotions in some cases fell out of the sky, next year there will be an expectation baked into each sale that these types of promotions will be regular features going forward.
So, let’s say you are a STM this season, you saw your per-game ticket price undercut in some cases by half or more via promotions, and you read that and said “fine, I’m not pleased, but I’ll hold my nose in pursuit of the greater good and expect things to be different next season.”
And then you got your renewal information and...well, let’s just say you’re probably not all that hyped about the exclusive STM hat.
The STM rollout this year leaves plenty of questions and just as many aggravations. It’s fair to wonder what the team’s definition of “take care of” really is, because if you’re wondering what’s in it for you, this is anything but being taken care of.
Let’s say, for example, that you want to sit at center ice but don’t want to shell out nearly $5,000 to do so. This past year, it could be done: grab a FanZone season ticket for $688; purchase tickets for $40 a pop to 21 games through the Black Friday and FANuary flash sales and the STM appreciation night discounts (total $840); pay the STM discounted rate for the other 22 games, including preseason, at $116 (total $2,552); profit. You’ve just paid $4,080 - almost a thousand dollars off the list price, with all the STM benefits except for sitting in the same seat every game and extra ticket vouchers.
And if you wanted to save some more money, you could have not bought the two preseason tickets at center ice and just used the FanZone tickets for those two games. Doing that would knock your total price down to $3,848 - or $93.86 per center ice ticket, a savings of $22 per game.
That’s just one example. There are more all over the arena. In fact, unless you’re sitting with a group of friends or family and being in the same seats all the time is of the utmost importance to you and your enjoyment of Hurricanes games, a little bit of legwork could save you some big bucks.
It’s fair to ask what the incentive is here. If you don’t care about the perks, most of which haven’t changed appreciably, and you take the Canes at their word that deeply-discounted promotions will be the rule, not the exception, going forward, why sign up to willingly be undercut?
Not just that; there are other questions left unanswered here. Among them:
- There’s nothing about Select-a-Seat; is it the same as in the past?
- Will STM appreciation games still be offered, and if so, how many of them and what’s the price involved?
- Are there blackout dates for vouchers?
- The discount at The Eye says “up to 20%”; what’s the fine print?
- What’s the limited time in the prepaid parking discount, and how much of a discount is it?
- The seat upgrade credit notation is ambiguous: “lower-level and club level only”. Does that mean every STM gets the credit but it can only be used to upgrade to seats in the bottom two levels, or does it mean that only STMs in those levels get the credit?
This is basic stuff that shouldn’t require a call to a ticket rep for clarification, yet it’s nowhere to be found in any of the promotional materials.
It seems that the Canes’ idea of “taking care of” STMs is largely based around experiences, that the premium price charged for season tickets over the discounts available is worth it because of all the ancillary things that come with membership. But you’d have to think that, unless those experiences really are a difference-maker, people for whom money is the main consideration can simply wait it out and cobble together a season ticket game by game.
It should be pointed out that a lot of these benefits are targeting new season ticket members. If you’ve never had a season ticket before, experiences like the Fan Tunnel and a chance to talk shop with the owner might be the tipping point that convinces you to pony up, and from a business perspective it makes sense on its face. But for existing STMs, especially long-term ones, most of this stuff is old hat by now. The real benefit isn’t in the plan itself; there’s a sense that those fans are already content with the plans because they’ve continued to renew year after year. That leaves nebulous promises of improvement on the ice and in the stands as the only real motivating factor; it certainly isn’t because you save any money by doing so.
Dundon has said that improving the game experience is his number-one concern, but season tickets have long been pitched as a way to save money and demonstrate a fan’s loyalty to a team. That loyalty has to be a two-way street, though. It’s fair to ask, given the sense that the concerns of existing season ticket members have largely been left unaddressed in this plan, whether improvements to game night at PNC Arena come at the risk of depleting the existing membership base.
Jamie Kellner, Canes Country editor and Canes Season Ticket Member, contributed to this article.
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You’ve seen our take on the 2018-19 season ticket membership packages. What’s yours? Whether you have been a STM for years, you’re considering joining for the first time, or even if you’re just a fan and don’t plan on buying a membership, we want to hear from you. Feel free to expand on your thoughts in the comments as well!
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Canes fan but not a current or future Season Ticket Member
New STM for 2018-19 Full Season Plan
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Existing 2017-18 STM Renewing and Downgrading Plan for 2018-19
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Not a STM But Considering Becoming One
Current STM But Unsure About Renewing